Kota Kinabalu, Tuesday, 6 June 2017: “The time is ripe for both the federal and Sabah governments to review the 1974 Petroleum Development Act (PDA), the 1975 Oil Vesting Order and 1976 Oil Agreement and to return Sabah’s and Sarawak’s oil and gas resources to their rightful owners, the people of Sabah and Sarawak as we mark another anniversary of the 1976 tragic air-crash that killed Tun Fuad and 10 others including several of his Cabinet Ministers” said Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan, in a press statement released after a memorial service at the Double Six Memorial in Sembulan, Kota Kinabalu.

The PDA in 1974 is a piece of unconstitutional and illegal legislation passed to seize the oil and gas resources from Sabah and Sarawak. Oil and gas rights belonged to the Borneo States and were within the ambit of the State Lists in the Federal Constitution and the federal Parliament had no authority to pass the PDA.

Sabah and Sarawak not only lost their oil and gas resources to Petronas in a single signature by Tun Razak, the late father of the present Prime Minister Najib, on 26 March 1975 vesting them in perpetuity. Tun Razak had no legal or constitutional right to sign the Vesting Order.

On 14 June 1976, while still in mourning and 8 days after the air-crash tragedy, the then Chief Minister Harris Salleh signed to accept 5% as the cash payment receivable by Sabah for the oil and gas resources vested in Petronas. That single signature caused Petronas to receive RM380 million in 1976 alone for the 95% share. That figure is expected to reach RM35 billion for 2017.

In hindsight, the refusal by Sabah’s founding fathers, Tun Mustapha and Tun Fuad, to sign the Oil Agreement is now proven correct.

Equally tragic, Harris also signed and waived all rights that Sabah was entitled to impose as royalties on the oil and gas produced from Sabah. Such royalties were payable to Sabah pursuant to Section 24 of the Land Ordinane (Sabah, Cap. 68).

At least Tun Mustapha when signing the 6 international oil agreements with international oil companies before 1969 had the foresight to impose 12.5% royalties for all oil and gas extracted from Sabah.

To his credit and frankness, Harris did say a few years ago that he was “pressured” into signing the 1976 Oil Agreement. The basis advanced by the federal government was that oil found off-shore Sabah belonged to the federal government and signing and getting 5% was better than getting nothing at all, although the two Chief Ministers before him, Tun Mustapha and Tun Fuad, did not sign the same deal.

At the same time, Sabah had lost the right to impose other charges including millions annually in loss of land revenues from the areas worked on by Petronas and its partners to produce the oil and gas.

In addition, the intangible loss to Sabah and Sabahans is immeasurable arising from the loss of the oil and gas revenues which otherwise would have gone to develop Sabah and development of Sabahans. Arising from this intangible loss, certainly more than tens of billion ringgits annually, have contributed to Sabah being the poorest in the nation from being the second richest in the early 1970s.

“Summing up everything altogether, the loss of the oil and gas resources and revenues annually is a typical scenario of a colonial exploitation of Sabah by its colonial master, the Federation of Malaya masquerading as the Federation of Malaysia” opined Dr. Jeffrey.

No right-thinking person would say that the federal government has been fair to Sabah and Sarawak given that the oil revenues were siphoned off to develop Malaya. This is even before adding the 40% net revenue derived from Sabah as agreed and provided in the Federal Constitution and amounting to tens of billion ringgits annually that are stolen from Sabah.

The refusal by Tun Mustapha and Tun Fuad to sign the oil agreement in 1975 and 1976 and the mysterious circumstances and actions and events before and after the air-crash has only fuelled speculations.

The hidden hands of the federal government controlled by Umno Malaya in funding Harris to help set up Berjaya party and loan to run the party with back-up support for Berjaya who eventually ousted the Usno government in April 1976 speak volumes of the hidden hands. It was rumoured that half a million ringgit was given to set up Berjaya and another RM5 million was made available for the 1976 elections.

The request by the federal government to the Australian authorities to classify the air-crash report as secret and preventing its disclosure and the 2010 revelation by Tengku Razaleigh that he was strapped in before being pulled by Harris out of the Nomad airplane that eventually crashed added further mystery to the air-crash. Apparently, Tengku Razaleigh was asked to follow Harris in the other airplane for a visit to the cattle farm in Pulau Banggi added further speculations.

The continued refusal by the federal government to release the air-crash findings by the Australian authorities is equally baffling. So much so that people are speculating that if Tun Fuad was not assassinated or killed off, there is no reasonable excuse or valid reason not to release the air-crash findings.

It is no longer conscionable for Petronas and the federal government to continue taking 95% of the oil and gas revenues from Sabah and Sarawak, more so when it is stolen to develop Malaya. And at the same time leaving Sabah and Sarawak largely undeveloped and languishing as the poorest and second poorest States in Malaysia.

The time has come to put a stop to the continued subjugation of Sabah by the Malayan controlled federal government and Umno Malaya and thecolonial exploitation of Sabah’s wealth, oil and gas resources and other revenues including the 40% net revenue derived from Sabah.

The time has come for Sabah and Sarawak to be recognized and respected as equal partners to Malaya in the formation of Malaysia. Equally important, it is time for Justice for Borneo, not only Justice for Sabah. If justice is denied and not done and not done quickly, then the Federation of Malaysia may not progress very far and the people of Sabah may have to look elsewhere to chart its own future destiny. To continue to do so would mean to fail Sabah and condemn future generations of Sabahans to continued poverty.

Datuk Dr. Jeffrey Kitingan
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